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Found Steve Jobs interviews show 'pivotal' growth during years away from Apple

A technology journalist has uncovered hours of previously-unreleased recordings of audio interviews with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs that collectively show how the growth he experienced during his so-called "wilderness years" at NeXT and Pixar prepared him for success later in life.

Writing for Fast Company, Brent Schlender published selected stories and snippets from the interviews on Tuesday. The recordings cover a period of 25 years, with many of them having take place during Jobs' time away from Apple.

"Many [of the tapes] I had never replayed—a couple hadn't even been transcribed before now," Schlender wrote. "Some were interrupted by his kids bolting into the kitchen as we talked. During others, he would hit the pause button himself before saying something he feared might come back to bite him."

According to the journalist, the humbling period after Jobs was ousted from Apple in 1985 taught him adaptability, the value of partnerships and how to structure a corporation. Time spent at Pixar learning the business of making hit films would later help him trim down Apple's product line and produce a "decade-long string of hits," such as the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Steve Jobs illustration

iPad illustration of Steve Jobs by Jorge Colombo | Source: Fast Company


A key catalyst for Jobs' growth was his family, Schlender said, noting that his wife Laurene and his children had a calming effect on Jobs. Incidentally, having a family also helped him to understand the market that Pixar was trying to reach.

"In hindsight, Jobs's having a real family might have been the best thing to happen to Pixar. He was most effective as a marketer and a business leader when he could think of himself as the primary customer," Schlender wrote.

Jobs bought Pixar from filmmaker George Lucas for $5 million in 1985. The company struggled early on, but Jobs eventually decided to slim it down and focus on disrupting the animation industry. According to the interviews, he restructured the company to equally value team members working on the creative and technological sides. Schlender posits that Jobs applied a similar formula when he returned to Apple by integrating "designers and technologists" on his core team.

With hours of source material to draw upon, Schlender had a wealth of stories to tell about his interactions with Jobs. Fast Company has published a short collection of notable quotes from the tapes. For instance, Jobs once said that he models his management style after the Beatles.

"The reason I say that is because each of the key people in the Beatles kept the others from going off in the directions of their bad tendencies," he said. "It was the chemistry of a small group of people, and that chemistry was greater than the sum of the parts."